Earlier we learned that droughts are normal parts of climate just like floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. That might sound strange to you if you have seen pictures of what floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes can do to houses, trees, and the land. Droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes are what we call natural hazards.
We usually can't see drought coming. We can see water rising in a river, watch the wind pick up as a hurricane approaches, or see thunderclouds approaching. We also can turn on the television, radio, or internet to see storms on radar and find out what we should do to protect ourselves from storms. We don’t have watches or warnings for drought like we do for other natural hazards such as tornadoes, floods, or hurricanes.
Drought doesn’t have a clear beginning and end like tornadoes or hurricanes or floods. It starts and ends slowly and often we don’t see the effects of drought for weeks, months, or even years. This is why we often say that drought is a creeping natural hazard.
Drought can sneak up on us because we might enjoy being outside in the sunshine and not having rain interrupt our plans. We can have several weeks of enjoying the sunny weather before we notice that our lawns or plants start to look brown. We can even go for months before we notice that there isn’t as much water in a nearby lake. It doesn’t take weeks or months to notice the effects of floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes, does it?
Visit the “how do different people study drought” section to learn about how scientists track drought.